We chatted with Brigitte Szychowski-VanBaelen and Stewart Marshall, two of the forces behind the Yuletide Jam, to get the scoop on this family-friendly event with great food, activities for kids, live music all day, an appearance by Santa and a new chili cook-off.
Not only is there lots of fun to be had, but it's also a fundraiser for America's Second Harvest of the Coastal Empire. Marshall started Yuletide Jam six years ago.
"This time of year presents itself with a higher need of bringing food to the table of many families in Coastal Georgia, especially in recent years of economic downturn, so it is truly a natural fit," Marshall said. "And as a musician at heart, I used those talents I knew the best to raise funds at this important family holiday season."
Szychowski-VanBaelen, Kelley Marshall and Kelly Walsh round out the Yuletide Jam team this year.
"It is a collective effort of volunteers and sponsors and musicians who believe in this cause and it continues to gain traction each year," Szychowski-VanBaelen said. "I think it is a success because the organizers work very hard to fine-tune and improve things each year and they aren't afraid to let the event breathe and be flexible to keep it interesting. Also, this team works so well together and finds joy in helping others."
The musical lineup includes many local favorites such as Jan Spillane and the Curve, Lauren Lapointe, Ray Lundy of Bottles N Cans, Keith & Ross, Junkyard Angel, The Stewart & Winfield Band, The Sweetfield of Eden Choir and The Andrew Gill Band. Junkyard Angel's drummer, Joe Ippolito, will also be hosting drum circle sessions for kids during the early portion of the day.
"It sounds like a great cause and a lot of fun, and I am thrilled to be a part of it," Lapointe said.
Lapointe and the other musicians may just bust out a few of their favorite Christmas songs, as well.
"If I had to pick one to perform, it would have to be 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.' I've also been learning 'I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas' and that's pretty fun," Lapointe said.
For the sixth annual event, Szychowski-VanBaelen said their focus was to "return to the basic holiday spirit - bringing the community together to have a great time while giving to a needy cause and spending time catching up with family and friends in a low-key and casual family setting. Doing good while feeling good!"
Other happenings include craft sessions by Scribble Art Studio and a raffle with lots of items donated by local businesses, artists and individuals. To top it off, there will also be an official tree lighting.
"And of course, we cannot forget about the food drive - everyone can bring their cans and let's fill up those barrels. All of this is a guaranteed great time!" Stewart said.
No doubt the chili cook-off will be a welcome addition, with a blend of families and professionals participating.
"We have a chef's team of judges between Kirk Blaine of Driftaway CafÃ©, Keith Latture of Sandfly BBQ, Gabe Gardner and Gearry Caudell of Savannah Technical College's Culinary Institute, Seth Musler of Betty Bombers and Patrick Zimmerman of Butterhead Greens, as well as all event patrons judging the chili entries," Stewart said.
Szychowski-VanBaelen said the math is simple.
"It is a simple equation: A community's love of music + its spirit-filled giving to help end hunger = A great time for the whole family," she said.